Power slices points gap to 47 as Pagenaud has tough Toronto day

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TORONTO – With his third win in four races, and points leader Simon Pagenaud’s fourth finish of ninth or worse in his last six races, Will Power has come from no points scored to within 47 of Pagenaud with just five races remaining in the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Following the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, when Pagenaud won his third straight race this year, Power was 10th in points and 137 behind Pagenaud.

After today’s Honda Indy Toronto, Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet is now just 47 behind after making up 90 points since.

As Power explained in the post-race press conference, you can gain points in one huge swing – or you can keep chipping away at it thanks to wins and great results (and first, first, second and first in the last four races nearly mirrors Pagenaud’s second, second, first, first, first run to start the year).

“Dixon has been the example of that year after year,” Power explained. “He said to me the other day, with six to go, he was 90 back. Just shows you how quickly that can change. He’s got to keep at it and not get desperate.

As a note on that, Dixon was 92 points back of Helio Castroneves after the Iowa Corn 300 in 2013 with what was nine races – including two doubleheader weekends (Toronto, Houston) – left in that season. But he made up the difference and won the title.

Pagenaud’s day, meanwhile, was an exercise in frustration and a roller coaster of positions.

The driver of the No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet started from third, led his lone lap of the race on Lap 27, then recycled back to second for most of the next stint before things got hairy after the Josef Newgarden accident on Lap 58 that brought out the fourth yellow flag period of the race.

Pagenaud was one of seven drivers who were yet to pit and as a result he fell from second to 14th after he did stop. By the finish, he’d made it back to ninth, albeit not without controversy.

Jack Hawksworth told NBC Sports post-race that he’d been hit by Pagenaud, but an inquiry to INDYCAR Race Control said it produced no video evidence of clear contact between Pagenaud and Hawksworth at Turn 5.

At the time of incident on Lap 82, Hawksworth was ninth and Pagenaud 10th, but the incident dropped Hawksworth to 21st while Pagenaud leapt to ninth.

In a post-race quote issued from Team Penske, Pagenaud explained his day, but not the Hawksworth incident:

“The PPG Automotive Refinish Chevrolet was much stronger than what the results showed,” he said. “It’s really unfortunate. I was really happy that I was able to run second for most of the race. We trimmed the car great midway through the race and it was really strong at the end, but unfortunately we got caught on the last yellow and that shuffled us to the back.

“We were able to get back inside the top 10 which was a great performance. We lost quite a bit of points today, but over the performance is there. It’s there every week. That’s the silver lining to see how competitive we are. So, we go to Mid-Ohio which is a track that suits very well. I’m very excited about it.”

Meanwhile Power said while he’s let the races come to him, he’s letting the points take care of themselves.

“How do you know where he’s going to finish and where you’re going to finish? You just have to execute week in and week out,” he explained in the post-race press conference.

“Yeah, you can look at the points at the end of each weekend, but it’s absolutely the wrong focus to be looking at points. You know your limits. You know your risks. You know what is a 50/50 move. You know when to take those risks. If you’re taking them all the time, you’re going to get caught out half the time or more. If you do it at a time when it’s necessary to take that risk, you have a good chance of pulling it off. That’s how you got to do it.”

The Team Penske trio tops the standings because behind Pagenaud and Power, Helio Castroneves sits third with 358 points.

Dixon, after his own fraught day, is fourth on 349 points with Newgarden down to fifth on 344 points. With a 21st or 22nd place finish looming at Texas and a did not finish to be registered, for all intents and purposes, today marked the end of Newgarden’s realistic title hopes for 2016 – even if he stays mathematically eligible down to the wire.

The top 10 in points is below:

1. Simon Pagenaud, 432
2. Will Power, 385
3. Helio Castroneves, 358
4. Scott Dixon, 349
5. Josef Newgarden, 344
6. Tony Kanaan, 339
7. Alexander Rossi, 300
8. James Hinchcliffe, 299
9. Charlie Kimball, 294
10. Carlos Munoz, 293